AWS is helping the born-in-the cloud incubator and accelerator to bring its next set of great ideas to fruition
Two years ago New Zealand-wide telecommunications service provider Telecom changed its name to Spark. It was more than simply a re-branding exercise.
The telco had a new strategic direction and sought to expand its offering, discover new markets and create alternative sources of revenue.
To do so, the company, which employs more than 5,000 staff, would have to find ways to act more like a startup, adopt different ways of thinking, and move far more quickly.
Enter Spark Ventures, a semi-independent division that sits within the telco giant, which has a string of successes to its name. It acts as an internal incubator and accelerator, adopting disruptive approaches and startup methods such as Lean and Agile for a portfolio of ventures.
There’s online TV service Lightbox, ISP Bigpipe, smartphone-based smart home control and monitoring app Morepork, data insights and analytics platform Qrious and biometric monitoring technology solutions provider Jupl, to name but a few. It has even begun turning phone boxes, already converted into Wi-Fi hotspots, into charging points for electric vehicles
“We’re innovating on the products we’ve got – new products we’ve taken to market and others that make Spark ‘stickier’ for existing customers – but we’re also innovating from a customer perspective, from an operations perspective and a support perspective,” says Peter Yates, Head of Spark Ventures’ PMO, Operations, IT and Platforms.
Giving flexibility thanks to PAYG services
“We do things completely differently and we take a cloud-first approach to do that. It’s one of our key guiding principles.”
From its inception, Spark Ventures has partnered with AWS and followed a PAYG strategy for the services it uses.
“We have taken the bold step of using consumption based services for most of the core tools required to run an operational team as well the organisation as a whole,” says Yates. “The use of consumption based services within an organisation can give small and large companies alike the flexibility around function, capacity and cost.”
Spark Ventures uses Salesforce for its CRM system, Remedyforce for IT service management, the Atlassian suite for development and collaboration with the organisation, and Zuora for billing.
“Quite simply there are people out there that can do things better than we can do ourselves,” says Yates.
“We want to do things that add value to the ventures and the business, and get those things out there quickly. That doesn’t mean adding disks or more storage for somebody. If we were worried about the day to day stuff we wouldn’t be able to do put as much focus on our projects.”
Ensuring security is the key
Although it is home to a number of nimble start-up-like brands, security remains paramount: the Spark name is at stake. AWS has given Spark Ventures the reliability and security it requires to maintain its reputation.
“The ventures can look and operate like startups, the technology underpinning them cannot. They’re still backed by Spark. We can’t miss out the security measures or access controls, it doesn’t work like that.
The group follows AWS recommended best practices, and receives audits from AWS to help it identify any gaps.
“If anything bad happens or something goes wrong, it’s not the venture that suffers it is Spark,” says Yates.
Enabling automation with Cloud services
The group also makes use of the tools and features available from AWS such as Redshift, Lambda, automation tools, Reserved Instances, Elastic Beanstalk and intrusion detect.
“AWS has really enabled us around automation. We don’t have to set up things ourselves; we can use the native products and services they’ve got there. Part of the reason we chose AWS is because they had the features and function that we needed. And they’re continually bringing out new ones which we can utilise.”
Spark Ventures was born in the cloud, and AWS is helping it bring the next set of great ideas to fruition.
“There’s going to be more ventures. We’re not just a telco anymore,” he says.